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More Insight on Handling Negative and Inaccurate Local Reviews for Churches #ChSocM

negative online reviews of churches
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

negative online reviews of churchesLast Tuesday we had lively, informative #ChSocM twitter chat on the topic…

Where Church, Search & Social Collide – Local Reviews

(Missed it? There’s a transcript available here.)

After the chat, I took some questions and comments from participants as well as some of my own and ran them by Kurt Steinbrueck, who is my brother and our director of search marketing here at OurChurch.Com for the last 9 years. He helps churches with their local listings and reviews on a daily basis through our Top Church Search Rankings service.

@Steve_Morrissey: Is there a way to get reviews removed if they contain more than a negative review, like false information

Most review sites have a reporting system in place for fake reviews (positive or negative). It’s up in the air how long it will take and how difficult it will be to get the review removed, but you can do it. Keep in mind that the review sites want real reviews, not just positive reviews. There are plenty of companies that report perfectly legit negative reviews as fake all the time to try to get them removed. So, these review sites have to try to determine whether the review is truly fake or not. If they think it’s fake, they will remove it.

@studionashvegas: The only issue I have with Yelp: it’s a “protection” racket. You have to pay to remove “bad results” #chsocm

By “bad results” do you mean bad reviews? I haven’t had to remove any negative reviews (real or fake) in Yelp, so I’m just going with the information I’ve seen. I don’t believe Yelp charges to remove false bad reviews (i.e. when a competitor posts a fake review to make you look bad). In fact they have a filter that tries to do that automatically. If a fake bad review gets through, I believe you just have to report it to their customer service.

If it’s an honest negative review, they don’t (and shouldn’t) remove it.For real negative reviews, I recommend contacting the customer to try to resolve the issue. I believe the customer is able to remove their negative review if they want and they can definitely post a new review. So, if you’re able to address their issues and satisfy them, you can ask them to change or remove their review or post an update indicating you contacted them and made things right.

If you don’t mean bad reviews, can you clarify?

What first steps would you recommend for someone who has never even thought about local reviews for their site? Find & look at info there? Claim listing? Correct mistakes?

These are good first steps. Get a list of the most important local review sites and make sure you are listed. If you are listed, create an account and then claim/verify your listings. Then check the information, correcting any mistakes and adding any missing information/features. If you are not listed, create and account and then create/verify new listings. Once you’ve gotten your listings setup/claimed, start asking people to post reviews.

What do you do if you find a local listing with inaccurate info?

First, create an account and claim the listing. You may need to verify your claim with a postcard or phone call. Once you have claimed the listing, you should be able to edit the information. Sometimes your new information will still be reviewed before it’s made live. So, there may be a delay.

If there is no way to claim the listing or they want to charge you a bunch of money and you don’t want to pay it, submit a support request with the site and ask them to change the listing for you. You won’t control the listing, but you may be able to correct the info. It’s best to claim and control as many listings as possible, but some site’s make that very difficult and others aren’t worth the price they charge to do that.

In the “The Ultimate Guide to Get Positive Online Reviews for Your Church” You listed 11 sites with local reviews. That’s a lot of sites to monitor (in addition to all the other social work). Is there a way to get notifications of new reviews? If not, what’s the most efficient way to monitor review sites for new reviews?

Some of the site will automatically email the owner of the listings if you’ve claimed/verified the listing. Google also monitors some of the sites and now has a dashboard feature where you can see the reviews they’ve found recently. There may be a delay with that and they don’t monitor every site.

Since we don’t monitor client reviews, I haven’t done a ton of research into this (though there may be an add-on service opportunity here), but there are some services, like, that say they will monitor the sites and notify people. I doubt they cover church listing sites. They could also try Internet Owl and set it to notify them of any changes to their listing pages.

Lastly, they can just manually check the sites or have someone else do it. I know it may sound like 11 sites are a lot to keep track of, but if you just bookmark the listings and save them in a single bookmark folder in Chrome and Firefox (and possibly IE, though I didn’t check), you can right-click on the folder and have it open all the pages bookmarked in that folder. It would probably take less than a minute each day to check for new reviews. Then it’s just a matter of remembering to do it.

Ready, Set, Go!

For more info on this topic, check out The Ultimate Guide to Get Positive Online Reviews for Your Church and all the other marketing-related stuff we’re doing in March for Marketing Month.

And if all of this seems more of a headache or takes more time than you have available, we can take of this and more for your church through our Top Church Search Rankings service.


  • What are  your thoughts on dealing with inaccurate local listings or negative reviews?
  • Got more questions about local listings & reviews? Post ’em in a comment below.

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

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